This may seem strange, but the air filter may be one of the most important components in your entire HVAC system. Although this is a smaller part that’s easy to clean or change, it’s often ignored, and that’s a critical mistake. When the air filter is not working as intended, it can have a major effect on the operation and efficiency of your entire system. Let’s take a look at the consequences of avoiding an air filter change in more detail.
What is the Function of an Air Filter?
Many people believe that an air filter removes contaminants from the air to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in their homes. This is only partially true. Although an air filter will remove some of the larger particulates, it’s nowhere near as effective as other filtration systems. If you want to remove bacteria, pollen, and other smaller particles, you need an air scrubber or an upgrade to a HEPA filter. Before you make any changes consult your local HVAC specialist and ask them about improving your IAQ.
The main function of a standard air filter is to remove larger particulates that could damage sensitive components in your HVAC system. This will include particulates, such as dust, dirt, pet dander, hair, and more. When these materials come into contact with your heating and cooling system components, they can cause damage and a loss of efficiency. So, when you think about air filters, remember that they act as a barrier to protect the investment you made in your HVAC system.
4 Things That Happen When You Avoid Air Filter Changes
Let’s take a look at four things that will happen if you don’t change the air filter regularly, they are:
- It Takes Longer to Cool
When you’re using a clogged or older air filter where the airflow is diminished, you may notice that it’s taking longer to cool your home than before. The HVAC system relies on a good level of airflow to move the treated air around your home efficiently. You may even notice that some areas in your home have different temperatures to the settings on your thermostat. The treated air needs to reach each and every room to varying degrees to avoid other issues such as cold spots, mold growth, and more.
- Health Problems
Although the primary function of an air filter is not to improve the IAQ, it is a useful feature. When the air filter is kept clean, you will notice that your cleaning efforts are improved because there is less dust in the air. A great deal of this dust will make its way onto the surface of the air filter, where it can be cleaned away in the trash where it belongs. When you have less dust in the air, you’re less likely to suffer from allergic reactions. Remember that dust contains bacteria, and the less of it that we have in our homes, the better we tend to feel. It’s worth bearing in mind that an HVAC system constantly cycles the air in your home, and you may breathe the same air several times each day. A clean air filter can help you to avoid health issues, including headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, allergic reactions, and more.
- A Loss of Energy Efficiency
When you don’t change the air filter regularly, a layer of dust and other particulates will build up across the surface. This material will impede the airflow, which the system relies on to work efficiently. To deal with the situation, the system will attempt to compensate by working even harder, and this will, in turn, drive up the energy bills. This means that you will be paying more for your heating and cooling with no improvement in performance. But, there is another issue related to a lack of airflow, as we shall see next.
- More Frequent Repairs and Early Failures
As we’ve seen above, a lack of airflow causes the HVAC system to overwork as it attempts to maintain the optimal level through the clogged air filter. Overworked equipment in any system is always more prone to failure, and this tends to have a knock on effect. When one component fails, it often affects another until you have a major problem that can even lead to a complete system failure. Overworked components tend to wear out faster, and this will inevitably lead to more frequent repairs and an earlier than expected replacement. Your heating and cooling systems represent a significant investment that you made to improve your home comfort, and it makes sense to protect them.
How Often Should I Change the Air Filter?
The exact answer to the question can be different depending on your system, the air filter you’re using, and various factors inside your home. If you have very poor IAQ coupled with occupants that have allergic reactions, you may want to change your air filter more frequently. This is equally true if you have pets because their hair and dander can clog up an air filter very quickly. The more people that are living in the home, the faster an air filter will clog due to the extra skin cells (dust) present in the air. As a rule of thumb, you should change your air filter every 30-90 days. But, it’s probably a good idea to check the air filter monthly to see how clogged it is, and you won’t suffer any consequences from more frequent filter changes. Many people clean or change their air filters on a monthly basis because it’s easy to set a reminder and get into a routine.
The Importance of Regular Air Filter Changes
Hopefully, the contents of this article have highlighted the importance of regular air filter changes. Some people may try to run their systems with clogged air filters or even don’t have a filter installed at all! This is a surefire way to lower the IAQ, drive up energy bills, and damage the components. Changing an air filter is easy; the full instructions are detailed in the owner’s manual for your HVAC system. If you’ve misplaced the manual, look for a pdf copy online and use that for reference. Just make sure that the air filters you’re using will fit your system, and the model numbers can be found on the rim of the filter.
If you’re worried about the performance of your HVAC system or you need some essential maintenance, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.